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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I learned a new word: Kaizen

Recently, on The Art of Simple, Tsh shared a word that was new to me but fit in with my style of goals and change.  The word is Kaizen.  It is a Japanese word for continuous improvement and was introduced to the West during the 1986 Olympics.  The basics imply that there is no end to goals, only continued striving for better.  Small, continual changes that create improvement over time.  Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis and always improving.

For me, the part that works is the small, continuous aspect.  I don't have to cut all the carbs or immediately start running five miles per day.  I can do something to improve today, I don't have to do everything.

After the birth of my third child, I needed to improve my physical health.  I wanted to be a runner, but I had never run as a habit in my life.  I could walk and so I committed to walking at least one mile everyday.  I decided to be just as committed to that as I was to brushing my teeth and it was a habit that stuck.  Within a year, I was walking much more and was able to try running.  I began with the goal of running one mile.  The first run, I ran half a mile, then walked the rest.  I kept doing it every day.  Soon I pushed the goal and then stretched it a bit more.  Quickly I worked up to running a mile, then two miles.  The small daily pushes feel much more manageable to me.

I want my tupperware cabinet to be less chaotic, so I'm slowly replacing all the mismatched pieces with orderly, stackable coordinates.  I haven't found an afternoon to do the whole thing (which would totally work for some people) so I just get a new piece or two when I can, and then toss older ones as I use them instead of washing and stacking them.  Eventually, I will have fewer containers and a more orderly cabinet.  This works for me.

image via
Without knowing the word that describes the concept, I have applied it to reading, to organizing, to changing personal habits, reaching out to others, and more goals I want in my life.  It works for me and saves me from feelings of failure when I don't accomplish it all at once.

The strategy can be applied toward almost any area. Often the concept is used in business.  It makes sense in personal relationships, fitness, community involvement and even relationships.    Another area in which this makes sense is in gardening - I don't have the energy to transform an entire lawn in one season, but bit by bit, it will improve.  I get excited just thinking of all the possibilities!

In some ways, this sounds like the opposite of my mantra that "You are Enough," but actually it fits right into that model.  Today, I am enough.  But that doesn't give me permission to stagnate and stay the way I am right now forever.  We must each strive for progress, not perfection.  We can't be perfect, we can be better.

Have you heard of the concept of Kaizen?  Do you recognize any benefits?  Are you a dive right in person, or make little changes type?  I don't know why this is so exciting to me, but I think I love the possibilities that feel within grasp.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Moody Monday Randomness

It's a wintry January Monday morning here and the clouds are hanging low over the mountains.  I'm almost sure it must be snowing up there, but there are only little flurries down here in the valley.  It's been busy in our household and here is my general Monday randomness:

1) I hosted my first sleepover party for my 9-year-old daughter.  She had the best time ever, but neither of us has recovered.  She takes after me in that we both need our sleep!  It was so worth it to foster her friendships, get to know her people and do something just for her.

2) The puppies are growing!  They are now three months old and doing much better with going
Photo taken by nine-year-old, excuse the cropped head!
outside to use the bathroom.  Each one knows his name and has a distinctive personality. Teddy is never going to catch up to Bilbo in size and will always be a runt.  The next doctor visit will include some snipping!

3) Remember the Less & More?  The scale isn't saying any less and this is when it gets hard for me!  I want instant results and that's unrealistic.  How do you stay motivated?

4) I'm missing family and need to schedule a time for us to all be together soon.  We had fun Facetiming on Friday and need to do that more often.  How do you keep in touch with far-away friends and family?

5) My husband is the best!  I just had to brag about something and he's the #1 thing to brag about.

I hope your week is fruitful and productive, but also enjoyable and pleasant.  Make some time to do something for yourself and to invest in others.  Scratch off things on the must-do list, but take time to think about your want-to list, too!

I love hearing from you and hope you will stop by again soon to say hello.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


We all have setbacks.  I know this, and yet I feel like I get so discouraged.  As if the path should always move forward, always progress and always be straightforward.  Did you hear the false thinking?  "Should" and "Always" are trigger phrases that help me identify my own false thinking.

The gray winter months can blind me to my "Why."
The purchase of a new water heater has been a significant financial setback to begin the year.  It seems impossible to get ahead of the necessities and enjoy some margin and extras in the financial department.  My husband works hard and we enjoy a generous income.  I work hard, too, and add to our families financial income.  It's just so frustrating then that some of my dreams get side-stepped by the necessities.  I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this reality.

I have a constant struggle in health department.  One time during a physical, the doctor said to me, "Good health doesn't happen by accident."  Prior to that statement, I kind of thought it did!  I assumed people were either born thin or with a penchant to gain weight, that they either had the luck of good health or the curse of health struggles.  Hearing that doctor put the control into my hands let me become responsible and I determined to be healthy on purpose.  As much I wish otherwise, weight is included in that and knowing I'm the only one who influences the number on the scale is more responsibility than I sometimes want.

One day, the scale displayed a number five pounds heavier ... in one day!  Yes, we had chocolate cake in the house, but I never dreamed what could happen so quickly by losing focus.  It felt like a huge setback, even though i'm certain the gain was temporary.

Last year I had a very bad sprain in one ankle and developed plantar fasciitis.  The sprain slowly healed, but I have had pain in my foot every single day since February of last year.  It's been a big setback.  I cannot run as fast, I'm less motivated to move and it's just frustrating indeed.

Recently, a character issue I've been praying and working on with one of my children seemed to be improving.  I was hopeful and happy to move beyond the challenge.  But we seem to have a setback and the same issue is emerging again as the stress and demands of life push issues of control to the surface.  What I thought was mostly settled is now back into a daily task of necessary, consistent discipline.  It's no fun for either of us.

I'm writing this for myself as a reminder that setbacks are part of life.  The true test of character is the daily moving forward in the face of setbacks, obstacles, disappointments and failures.  I need to admit when I have a setback, learn from the circumstances then refocus my drive on the end-goal.  Hopefully, the "end" is far into the future and I have plenty of time to correct my habits.

What about you?  Have you had any setbacks recently?  Did you set New Year goals and are you already falling short?  What can you do to remember the why so that you can be motivated to get back on course?  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Little More of This and a Little Less of That...

It happens to so many of us when January arrives on our calendars: Eat well, exercise more, get healthy, save more plan now.

I'm susceptible to all the articles and pins that tell me how to look better and feel better.  It's everywhere this time of year.  Truthfully, after holiday travel and indulgences, I look forward to a simplified diet but my family still expects meals on the table each evening.  What's a girl to do?  My goal is to truly learn to cook well and wisely for my family.  The goal is flavorful and nutritious fare within a reasonable time frame and budget.  There is going to be more protein and whole foods with less starches and sweets.  I'm not expecting it to happen overnight, just looking for progress, so I'm going to quantify this by stating that I'll incorporate four new menus into our cycle of meals.

Regarding exercise, I've met some personal goals in the past year regarding quantity and consistency.  This year I'm going to strive to be a bit more holistic in my approach.  I did a lot of running: Almost 1,200 miles and four pair of shoes worth!  It was great for my energy levels and let me indulge more at the table.  It also created a lot pressure on my feet and strained my already-weak ankle.  I want to add strength training and toning exercises along with more stretching this year.  I don't have a full plan in place yet and will work on that over the next few weeks - just in time for my next birthday.  I'm envisioning more miles at a time, but less days on the "track" and specific plans in place for strength and stretching.

Around the house, we have dreams of updating our living room furniture and adding a kitchen back splash.  These ideas then open the door to more plans: new counters, paint the walls, personalize the artwork and decor.  I'm sure some things will happen, others will not and I'm just thankful for the home in which we are blessed to live.  The space itself is working well, now the goal will be to make it look and feel like a representation of our personalities.  I will make choices that represent fewer frivolous and meaningless knick knacks and more purchases that reflect planning and strategy.

Our finances need consideration as we realistically prepare for a child in college next fall.  We can't allow the summer childcare expense to surprise us as greatly as it did last year.  We are tweaking our budget to make the best use of each dollar we earn.  During and impromptu budget "meeting" (if you consider date night a meeting), we confirmed our commitment to tithing as it demonstrates obedience, faith and fights selfishness.  I'm so grateful for a husband that leads our family in this way!  There will fewer extravagances and more thought into our purchases over the next twelve months as we spend and save with intention.

This consideration of things that need to be addressed is necessary for me.  I need to take time to consider the direction things are moving in my home and life so that it doesn't just happen, but is directed by my values and true goals.  I no longer expect major overhauls or instant changes on January 1.  Instead, I seek to make note of what is working, what needs to shift and start moving in those directions.  Year in and year out, I like seeing the shape of my life as it is refined to reflect me.

Do you make resolutions or set goals?  Do you choose a word or a focus each year?  How do you keep on-track for daily choices that mesh with your long term vision?

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Best Day

2014 was a great year and I can't think of any major issues that I faced.  Several life messages were reinforced through the daily grind and there were some great days, lots of normal life days and a few tough ones mixed in.  My son likes to ask me about the worst days in my life...I'm thankful to report none of those will be documented in 2014.

The best day of the year for me happened to be my birthday.  It snowed six inches and the whole family had no choice but to spend the day together. We frolicked in white powder, indulged in rich hot chocolate, snuggled in front of movies and ended the day with Salsa.  I didn't have to plan a thing and yet it was the best.  It's interesting to me how the best things often unfold on their own despite our attempts at planning and orchestrating.  I need to remember that and leave more space for these times.

Other themes that were reinforced last year were the importance of self care, the reminder that learning is a process as opposed to a one time event and that character is of utmost value.

I don't know how 2015 will unfold.  I know it will hold transitions for our family and I wonder how that will affect our days.  I wonder how my children will grow, change and continue to emerge in their identities.  There are challenges I know we will face and I wonder what is coming that we don't yet know about?  Where will I give the best of me?  Will I know when to step out and stand up for something that matters?  I hope so.  I want to make the best choices, the smartest decisions and convey my heart to those closest to me.

I'm ready and anticipating the year ahead.  I feel hopeful and steadfast.  Let's go!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Yearly Thoughts

This pause between Christmas and New Year's Day always prompts me to look back and to look forward.  Actually, the New Year has already arrived and I didn't get much of a pause this year.  We are right at the precipice of our busiest season as a family.  2014 was a gentle and good year that solidified bonds, meshed hearts and homes and opened my eyes to the longevity required for parenting.  I am learning and started to understand that my children aren't going to just 'get it' one day and be perfect from that moment on.  It takes a lifetime of the Lord's working in our hearts to truly work out our salvation.

I don't think 2015 will be quite as gentle.  We have a daughter graduating high school and a another who will begin driving.  Our son will end elementary school and enter the middle school culture.  There will be some things I can predict others that will knock me sideways with their surprise.  I'm anticipating answers to prayer along with new things that need prayer.  It's going to be a whirlwind of a year, I think.

But I'm not dreading the year.  I'm anticipating it with security that it will come out alright in the end.
I hope you have memories to savor from 2014 and that your 2015 is the best year so far!

Happy New Year!
I loved this "Happy Go Lucky" (Black-eyed-pea) soup for lunch on New Year's Day!